More than half of Just Stop Oil protesters arrested by the Met Police were charged

More than half of all Just Stop Oil (JSO) activists arrested between last November and April were subsequently charged, Metropolitan Police Freedom of Information (FOI) requests have revealed.

The data shows that from November 2023 to April this year, 695 Just Stop Oil activists were arrested whilst protesting, with 353 subsequently charged.

This high rate of charges being brought is in contrast to some other protests: only nine of the 121 arrested (7%) at a far-right protest on Armistice Day were subsequently charged.

To compare directly, of the 21 JSO activists arrested the day before Armistice Day, 14 were subsequently charged (66%) and at a protest the following day, 31 of the 32 people arrested were subject to charges (97%).

Just Stop Oil, which uses non-violent civil resistance to draw attention to the climate emergency, has conducted several high-profile stunts in recent years, with Stonehenge, the Mona Lisa and the M25 being targeted.

On 20 June, the group targeted Taylor Swift’s private plane hours after she touched down for her three sold-out shows at Wembley stadium, although they failed to access the ‘All Too Well’ star’s jet.

Ella, 21, has campaigned for Just Stop Oil for around a year, and spent five weeks in prison on remand after being arrested for slow marching in London.

Ella is cautious not to speculate on whether police deal with protesters differently depending on their cause but said: “Our slow marches caused 10-12 minutes of disruption, but I was on a bus caught up during the farmers’ protest and that was held up for 15 minutes.

“That’s fine, they are protesting – but the police were holding up traffic and facilitating the disruption and I wonder, if those tractors were orange, if it might have been a different response.”

In March, protesters caused traffic disruption after farmers drove their tractors slowly past the Houses of Parliament to campaign for more support for UK farming.

The farmers’ protest, organised by Save British Farming and Fairness for Farmers of Kent and replicated throughout Europe, was seen by some to be similar to the methods employed by Just Stop Oil in 2023 as their slow marching hit the headlines nationwide.

Information released in a separate FOI by the Metropolitan Police showed that no arrests were made during the farmers’ protest despite causing similar disruption and using the same tactics.

Whilst the data does not conclusively show police bias towards different protest groups, public opinion for the two groups differs starkly.

A recent YouGov poll shows that only 4% of people had a very favourable view of Just Stop Oil, with 42% saying that their opinion was very unfavourable.

Founder of Save British Farming Liz Webster said: “Polling shows that the public back British farming and food and want to maintain our high food standards and support local producers.”

Clive*, who is a serving police officer, said: “I don’t think that protests are policed differently depending on the cause, there are standing operating procedures which dictate how to police and establish the threshold for arrest.”

Yet, even if the police are governed by procedure to determine when an offence becomes an arrestable one, the data shows that those that those arrested for climate protests are far more likely to be charged than for other types.

Clive said: “I’m surprised by that because regardless of the type of protest, you must still meet a threshold set by the Crown Prosecution Service to charge individuals.

“The only explanation I could give is perhaps the more orderly nature of a climate protest when compared to a violent far-right protests – that it is easier to capture evidence of a dozen climate protesters marching down the road than it is with a dozen protesters in a crowd of a thousand fighting with police.”

The findings come after 27 Just Stop Oil activists were arrested on 20 June, on suspicion of plotting to cause mass disruption at UK airports during the summer holidays.

The Metropolitan Police were approached for comment but declined to do so.

*Not his real name

Featured image: Alisdare Hickson via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

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